Two Army Reservists charged with stealing and meth possession
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The case against two men identified as members of the US Army Reserve (Infantry) in American Samoa is now bound over to High Court, after District Court Judge Elvis P. Patea found probable cause to bind the charges against them during a preliminary examination (PX) this week.
Herman Tatupu and Anthony Sanft are each charged in two separate cases.
In the first case, Tatupu and Sanft are each charged with unlawful possession of methamphetamine, a felony, punishable by imprisonment of 5-10 years, a fine of $5,000-$20,000, or both.
In the second case, each defendant is charged with stealing, a class C felony, punishable by imprisonment up to 7 years, a $5,000 fine, or pursuant to A.S.C.A 46.2101, a fine equal to twice the amount of gain from the commission of said crime, up to a maximum of $20,000, or both such fine and imprisonment.
Prosecuting the case is Assistant Attorney General Christy Dunn, while Assistant Public Defender Bob Stuart is representing the two defendants. Tatupu has been released from custody after he posted a $10,000 bond while Sanft is still at the Territorial Correctional Facility (TCF).
The government called two witnesses: PSO Hilda Leomiti for the stealing case and Det. Samantha Lam Yuen for the drug case.
Leomiti testified that it was a manager from the PX who contacted police to report the alleged theft involving the two defendants, who allegedly stole items from the PX without paying.
At the PX, Leomiti was shown copies of surveillance videos by the shift manager who reported the matter. In the first video, Leomiti said she saw Tatupu and Sanft enter the PX before Tatupu made his way to the electronics side where he stood for a few seconds. The video showed Tatupu grabbing a square box from the shelf and hiding it under his armpit, covering the box with an ie lavalava that was hanging over his shoulder before walking out.
According to Leomiti’s statement, the square box contained a speaker that Tatupu sold to the owner of an Asian store in Atuu. Tatupu told the storeowner that he got the speaker from Hawaii.
Leomiti reviewed another surveillance video which showed Sanft enter the PX and making his way to electronics. According to Leomiti, Sanft grabbed a box from the shelf, hid it under his ie lavalava, and them walked to the back of the PX where he left it.
Leomiti said there’s no evidence from the PX to prove that Sanft paid for the items in the box he allegedly took off the store shelf.
Defense attorney Stuart asked the witness for evidence to prove that the items that were allegedly stolen by his two clients were from the PX. Leomiti said each item featured a PX tag, proving that the items belonged to the PX.
Stuart wanted to know what item Sanft allegedly stole. Leomiti said she doesn’t know, as all she saw from the surveillance video was Sanft grabbing a box off the shelf, hiding it under his ie lavalava and then walking to the back of the PX and leaving it there.
Stuart asked the witness if Sanft ever sold any items to anybody. Leomiti said “No”.
UNLAWFUL POSSESSION CASE
Det. Lam Yuen said that on Nov. 21, 2019 around 2:55p.m, two patrolling officers arrested Tatupu and Sanft from the Troop Store in Tafuna in connection with a possible stealing case. The pair was transported to the Tafuna Substation for questioning.
During a body search on Tatupu, cops found a glass pipe in a small red bag. The white crystalline substance in the glass pipe tested positive for meth.
One hour later, an inventory was conducted on a vehicle (license #536D), a rental car rented under Sanft’s name.
Cops found a bag of clothes with some Army accessories inside the vehicle. Also discovered was an open box of toothpaste under the driver’s seat. Inside the box was another glass pipe containing a white crystalline substance. Police also found a small stamp sized baggie containing small amounts of a white crystalline substance which also tested positive as ice.
Sanft told police that although he had the rental vehicle for about a week, he didn’t know who the glass pipe and stamped sized baggie belonged to. He further stated that he smoked meth once (about a year ago), but he didn’t like it and stopped immediately.
Sanft continued to deny that the glass pipe belonged to him. According to Lam Yuen, a third male was in the vehicle when police pulled it over. He too was escorted to the Tafuna Substation for questioning. The male told police that Sanft picked him up so he could contact his mechanic for help, but he had no idea that drugs were involved, or that they were stealing from the Troop Store.
Tatupu and Sanft will appear before Chief Justice Michael Kruse this morning for arraignment.